HC Deb 05 March 1839 vol 45 cc1283-5
Mr. Mackinnon

would detain the House but a very short time in bringing forward the motion of which he had given notice. He wished this measure had been taken up by the Government, or by the hon. Member for Hants (Mr. S. Lefevre). In 1836, in a committee, of which he had the honour of being Chairman, and after investigating the matter as far as possible, they felt compelled to come to the same determination as the committee of the House of Lords. His object was to obtain a select committee for the purpose of taking into consideration the best means, in the first place, of consolidating the various turnpike trusts throughout Great Britain, which had been recommended by committees of both Houses. His next object was, to ascertain in what manner the 8,000,000l. of debt now owing by those trusts could be liquidated. It was perfectly clear, that the establishment of railroads throughout the country would not only increase that debt, but render the security on different lines of road perfectly nugatory. The money had been advanced, not by wealthy parties, not even by the middle classes, but by persons whose all had been advanced for the security of the tolls, which now, by the establishment of railroads by this House, had been utterly done away with. The evidence taken in 1836 went to show, that in all the lines of road which had run parallel with the railroad, the tolls were lessened in a most unparalleled degree. Railroads were essentially a monopoly—they must become the carriers of both goods and passengers along the whole line on which they went, and it was essentially necessary that the Legislature which had given existence to those monopolies should, by some system of legislation prevent the evils attendant thereon. He imputed no blame to her Majesty's Ministers, nor to any one—the Legislature was in fault. He thought that when it allowed railroads to be established, it had been guilty of a great oversight in not laying down such a code of law for them as would have prevented the companies which had the management of them from converting the monopoly of conveyance which was thereby granted to them from becoming injurious to the public. He would not call upon the House to lay down such a code for the railroads already in existence, for he was not inclined to make ex post facto laws, but he called upon it to join with him in considering how far such a code could be framed for the better governance of those railroads for which bills might be brought in hereafter. He did not find fault with railroads; on the contrary, he was a great friend to them, and had always supported them in that House, but, at the same time, while they conferred a lasting benefit upon the country, care ought to be taken that individuals should not be deprived of that security upon which they had advanced their money, viz., public tolls. They were good property at the time the money was advanced, and the security had been done away with by the Acts of the Legislature. It was for her Majesty's Government to do as they thought fit on this subject; all that he (Mr. Mackinnon) was anxious for was, that justice should be done. The hon. Member concluded by moving for a Select Committee to examine into the subject.

Mr. F. Maule

said, he thought the only ground which the hon. Member had made out for a committee, was to inquire into the effect of railroads in deteriorating the securities on public roads. With respect to consolidation, there had been in both Houses committees ad nauseam. Twice had the Government brought forward measures for consolidation, and offered to advance the requisite securities; but the influence of those interested in the present system had prevailed with Members opposite to defeat those propositions. At the present period no Government could be expected to advance the public funds on securities so much deteriorated. If the hon. Member would alter his motion, and confine it to the effect of railroads on the public roads, he (Mr. F. Maule) would agree to it.

Mr. Mackinnon

consented to that alteration.

Sir George Strickland

said, the hon. Member had clearly enough exposed the evil; but he had not found a remedy.—As to the deterioration of the securities on the public tolls on turnpike roads by railroads, the results of the railroads were not at present clearly known.—For instance, in the case of the post-horse duty, which it was expected would have been quite annihilated by the railroads, the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the other night, had shown that this expectation was mistaken. And from the proposition of the Secretary for Ireland, as to Irish railways, it was doubtful what measures were to be taken by Government in respect to railways in general.

Mr. Warburton

thought the committee, as now proposed, would be premature, as it would have, if appointed, not to inquire into facts which had taken place, but to exercise the gift of prophecy. There was but one great line of railroad yet completed, viz., that from London to Liverpool, and surely it would be better to wait five or six years to ascertain what would be the result of the railways at present in progress of formation before any step was taken.

Mr. Mackinnon

did not think the hon. Member, the Under Secretary for the Home Department, had stated the case fairly. If the House adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bridport, they would wait until much more mischief had been done, which it was the object of the committee he proposed to appoint, to avert. If the House granted that committee, clauses might be introduced in all future railway bills to prevent the mischief which was likely to take place. He would however withdraw the motion in conformity with the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite.

Motion withdrawn.